Government rejects opencast mine on Northumberland coast

Highly controversial plans for an opencast mine near Druridge Bay on the Northumberland coast have been rejected by the government for a second time.

 

Coal

Banks Mining’s proposal would have produced 2.765 million tonnes of coal and created at least 100 full-time jobs on the site. Banks argued that the scheme would mean a £87 million investment into the Northumberland economy, keep a total of £120 million within the UK economy by not importing coal that would otherwise come from overseas suppliers, and make supply chain contracts worth £48 million available to local businesses.

However the proposal sparked vigorous protests from local and national campaigners who argued the scheme would destroy the area while contributing to a national and international climate emergency.

The proposal was originally approved by Northumberland County Council in 2016, a decision backed by a planning inspector at a subsequent public inquiry. The scheme was rejected by the then communities secretary Sajid Javid in 2018 before Banks successfully overturned his ruling in the High Court.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has now refused planning permission for the scheme after finding it is “not environmentally acceptable” and that it failed a key test under the National Planning Policy Framework.

In his decision letter, he said the scheme is “not likely to provide national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts - taking all relevant matters into account, including any residual environmental impacts”.

While he gave moderate weight to “the economic benefits which will flow from the proposal, moderate weight to the biodiversity benefits and no more than moderate weight to the need for coal”, he also gave “considerable weight to the harm to the character and appearance of the area” and “great weight to the harm to heritage assets”.

Friends of the Earth said the decision was “fantastic news” for the environment and a “tremendous victory” for local campaigners.

“With the world staring at catastrophic climate change, this is the right decision,” said climate campaigner Tony Bosworth. “Coal mines must be consigned to the history books if we are going to avoid climate breakdown.

“Let’s leave coal in the ground where it belongs, and invest in energy saving and renewable power to build the safe, clean and fairer future we so urgently need.”

 

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